If you were seriously injured in a crash with a semi-truck, you have numerous factors to deal with: seeking medical treatment, recovering from your injuries, replacing your car, arranging time off with your employer, and many more important tasks.
Tending to your immediate needs may take precedence over seeking the compensation to which you are entitled if it's proven that the truck driver or his employer was at fault in the crash. However, it's vital to your case to act quickly following the crash in order to preserve important evidence. This can be accomplished with a spoliation of evidence letter, and a truck accident attorney can help.
What Is a Spoliation of Evidence Letter?
Under federal law, trucking companies are only required to keep records such as hours-of-service logs and black box recordings for six months. Many companies have a system in place of regularly destroying records to clear out backlog. This means important evidence for your truck crash case could be destroyed before it's even heard in support of your claim.
To stop the destruction of key evidence, you must send a letter to the company requesting the preservation of specific records. The sooner this letter is sent after the accident, the more likely you are to save important evidence to support your claim. By hiring an attorney in the hours or days following the crash, you can be assured that sending a spoliation letter will be the first thing they do.
What Evidence Should Be Preserved?
When a serious accident occurs, an investigation is conducted immediately afterwards. In the case of a truck crash resulting in injuries or fatalities, local law enforcement examines the scene, takes witness statements, and collects any relevant evidence. The Department of Transportation (DOT) may also conduct an investigation, as will the truck driver’s employer.
All of this could be happening as you're recovering in the hospital. Once each agency has concluded its investigation, the trucking company is usually free to make repairs to the truck involved in the crash and destroy any evidence not collected by officials. Even if you or your representative isn't present at the crash scene, a spoliation letter sent immediately after the incident can make sure all evidence is preserved so your investigator can examine it in due time.
The letter must be specific about what evidence should be saved and should generally include the following:
- Driver logs. The truck driver’s logs provide information about how long he'd been driving at the time of the crash; if he had sufficient rest in the preceding days; and other important pieces of information about his driving fitness.
- On-board computer (black box) recordings. These records show how fast the truck was travelling at the time of the crash and at what point the brakes were applied, among other key facts.
- Accident investigation records. These records include photographs, police reports, witness statements, and other key pieces of evidence gathered by law enforcement or the DOT at the time of the crash.
- Daily inspection reports. Drivers are required to inspect their trucks every day before driving. These reports can reveal ongoing mechanical issues that may have contributed to the crash.
- Drug and alcohol tests. Usually, truck drivers are required to submit to drug and alcohol testing following a crash. The trucker’s employer should also have a record of random testing of the driver that could reveal a substance abuse problem that affects his driving.
- Maintenance and inspection records. Also required by law, an examination of maintenance records can tell you if the truck had safety issues in the past.
- Trucking company safety records. If a trucking company has a poor safety record, its practices may have led to the crash that left you injured. Inspecting safety records could provide evidence of negligence that could support your claim.
- Other key evidence. There may be other records that could be useful to your case. An experienced truck accident attorney will know what to request in a spoliation letter to support your claim.
Don’t Jeopardize Your Case—Call an Attorney Right Away
Your first priority following a serious truck accident is your own health and safety. However, it's in these first hours when cases can be won or lost. Taking the time to call Kansas City Accident Injury Attorneys to find out how a truck crash attorney can help might mean the difference between a settlement that covers all of your expenses and one that doesn't. Call us at (888) 348-2616 to find out more about spoliation letters and how we can help.